‘We have changed the game globally’: Samoa stars push for more Tests

Australia v Samoa
PHOTO: NRL

Samoan players have pledged to keep playing for the Pacific nation and they may be joined by more stars after changing the face of the international game by qualifying for the World Cup final.

After shocking Tonga and England to reach the final, Toa Samoa went down 30-10 to Australia at Old Trafford before a crowd of 67,502, who were mostly supporting the island nation.

However, the result was less important than the legacy the team has created and players spoke afterwards about wanting to play more international matches and taking a Test to the USA, which has a large Samoan population.

“It’s about spreading the game and I think we touched on it during the week, about ‘The Rock’ being able to give a shout out to the team,” Samoa captain Junior Paulo said.

“Seeing as he has got 250 million followers, I am sure everyone knows what rugby league is now.

“Although we have a busy schedule throughout the year, we need to find a way on how we can block these games out for international rugby league moving forward because we have seen how much it means around the world.”

With street parades and motorcades in support of the team across nearly every city in Australia, New Zealand and the United States, star playmaker Jarome Luai believes Samoa must play more regularly.  

“I am sure there are some guys on our board who are really going to push for more games, and look around the world at what we have done,” Luai said.

“We have grown the game in a sense, and if they want to keep growing the game they need to keep playing Samoa international games.”

After the match, players sung, prayed and enjoyed a celebratory drink in their  Old Trafford dressing shed, where they were joined by Kangaroos stars of Samoan heritage, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui , Jeremiah Nanai and Murray Taulagi.

Asked about the possibility of some of the Samoa squad playing for Australia at the next World Cup in France in 2025, Paulo pointed out that there were also Kangaroos players eligible for Samoa.

“We could have done that this World Cup but this is part of the reason why we chose to represent our heritage,” he said.

“There are guys in the Australian team who are eligible to play for Samoa as well, but they made a decision to represent Australia and hats off to them, because they have got their own reasons.”

Luai said it was overwhelming to see the support for Samoa from “every corner of the earth”.

“Just being a part of that is something special and it is good to see Samoans around the world unified to one cause,” he said.

“I am just really blessed and grateful to be a part of this team and with what we have done the last couple of weeks I think we have changed the game globally.

“We want to inspire the next generation and I am sure kids in Samoa want to chuck on that Toa Samoa jersey and be the next Joey Sua’ali’i or Brian To’o. That is something special.”

Paulo said leading Samoa to the World Cup final was the greatest achievement of his career.

“Every time I get to put on the blue jersey I think about how it means so much to people throughout the world and we have been able to see that this campaign,” he said.

“We have seen the parades that are happening in Australia, New Zealand, America and all around the world.

“In history, those names will always be alongside each other and we can look back and be proud of what we’ve been able to do. “This is part of the reason we chose to represent our heritage. We not only represent ourselves, our staff and our people, it’s also about the spirit of what Samoa means to us.”

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